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So a week after our inaugural 2012 cattle call, the first real-life Republican cattle call starts today, at the three-day CPAC shindig in DC. Most of the contenders (and not a few of the pretenders) for the nomination will speak at some point over the next couple days, and then a straw poll will reveal that Ron Paul is the frontrunner to win the nomination, or something. (Fun fact: the CPAC straw poll is about as accurate in predicting the Republican nominee as a close inspection of the entrails of a goat sacrificed to honor Ronald Reagan's birthday. In '07, Mitt Romney won, and we all remember his valiant campaign against Obama in the general. In '99, Gary Bauer came out of nowhere to seize the hearts and minds of CPAC attendees, catapulting him into 8 years in the White House. And in '95, Phil Gramm triumphed over Bob Dole, and wasn't at all the first candidate to drop out of the '96 race.)

And with all this hot and exciting talent on the agenda -- Herman Cain! Donald Trump! (please run, Donald, please) -- who's everyone talking about?

Sarah Palin, of course. Who won't even be at CPAC, for "reasons" that she "explained" with an inimitable word salad last week:

Well, I’ve never attended a CPAC conference ever so I was a little taken aback this go around when I couldn’t make it to this one either and then there was a speculation well I either agree or disagree with some of the groups or issues that CPAC is discussing. It really is a matter of time for me.

But when it comes to, and David, perhaps what it is that you’re suggesting in the question, is should the GOP, should conservatives not reach out to others, not participate in events or forums that perhaps arising within those forums are issues that maybe we don’t personally agree with? And I say no. It’s like you being on a panel shoot, with a bunch of the liberal folks whom you have been on and you provide good information and balance, and you allow for healthy debate, which is needed in order for people to gather information and make up their own minds about issues.

I look at participation in an event like CPAC or any other event along kind of in that same vein as the more information that people have the better.

Clear as day.

Well, what did Grizzly Mama do to distract the attention of the CPACkers and the assembled media? She gave an interview to Sean Hannity, which is something that seems like it happens once a week. And in that interview, she inexplicably raised the profile of Rick Santorum, who had called her out for skipping CPAC by implying that she had to stay home with her kids:

"I will not call him a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal that perhaps others would want to call him. I'll let his wife call him that, instead.

I think that, maybe, he is uninformed as to why it is that I can't make it to another political speech in a couple of weeks.

As I've explained, February is our busiest winter month, and just because I am a mom, that does not mean that I didn't want to be there.

It's a basic rule of politics that you don't give oxygen to rivals with a far lower profile. By allowing herself to be goaded into a public spat with Santorum, Palin is violating that rule, and providing Little Ricky with a spotlight he couldn't dream of grabbing without her help. (And does it really hurt Santorum with the CPAC crowd to call him a Neanderthal?)

As Palin said later in her Hannity interview, "hearing that, another part of me goes, 'And the beat goes on'."

So enjoy CPAC, and let's all hope that Donald Trump is a hit.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Feb 10, 2011 at 08:16 AM PST.

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